Why Designers Need to Start Thinking About Blockchain Technology.
June 11, 2020

Blockchain is a relatively new technology that will soon replace the underlying structure for a lot of the applications and services we use today, including systems for managing our finances, tracking our health, and determining how we connect, transact, and communicate with each other.

So, while it’s tempting to write off blockchains as something to leave to the coders, the potential human impact is too big to ignore. There will be user experiences, communications, and other completely new elements that will need to be carefully designed.

Here are 3 reasons why designers need to start thinking about blockchain technology today:

1. It’s bigger than just cryptocurrency
Many people are familiar with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Blockchain is the technology that forms the underlying structure for these digital currencies and gives them the unique qualities that make them different from conventional lucre like the US Dollar. That structure includes the ability to exchange funds directly with anybody, anywhere in the world, without the need for an intermediary like PayPal, Visa, or Citibank.

A blockchain is a new type of digital ledger which records information in a publicly-verified, traceable way across a decentralized network of devices. What this means is information for, say, an app isn’t just stored on a privately-owned server somewhere—it’s stored across multiple devices that communicate with each other to verify user activity, rather than referencing one central authority, like a Wells Fargo or Google.

2. It will change how humans interact with one another
Blockchain isn’t just a technology, it’s also a state of mind. Well, okay, that might just be the Californian in me talking, but all exaggeration and hype aside, blockchains are going to have a big impact on our culture too.

We’ll come to expect new things from our relationships with other people and parties, based on how blockchains manage our digital interactions. Mirroring the open, accessible code structure, people will expect the companies they do business with are open and accessible as well.

Consumers will demand more information about the goods and services they purchase. Companies will be held to a higher standard of data security.

Trust will become perhaps the most important design element in any system.

3. Technology needs design more than ever
Our world is changing at lightspeed. As new technologies and tools are released daily, it’s easy to get caught up at a rapid pace without stopping to think about the human impact of what we’re creating.

We have a tendency to think of code and algorithms as neutral tools, but they’re not. Technology is neither good nor bad, it’s how we apply it that matters. Everything we create has a human imprint on it—our assumptions, hopes, and fears are built into the systems we design.

Technology is neither good nor bad, it’s how we apply it that matters.

That’s why, moving forward, we’re going to need a group of people that advocate for the human experience—and human rights—as we develop these technologies. Especially right now, as emerging technologies like blockchain begin to take form, it’s important for designers to have a voice in that process from the very beginning.